Leamington, Ont., palates put to blind ketchup taste test

A blind taste test held in the heart of Canada’s tomato capital this week showed residents are divided when it comes to their preferred ketchup.

Mayor John Paterson, who admittedly has a stockpile of Heinz ketchup at home, dropped by to take the challenge

Where better for a ketchup taste test than Leamington, Ont., the so-called Tomato Capital of Canada? People had three choices: French's (A), Heinz (B) and President's Choice (C). 1:46

French's may have stolen the hearts of its Leamington, Ont., ketchup consumers, but the condiment company has work to do when it comes to people's palates.

An informal, and far-from-scientific, blind taste test held in the heart of Canada's tomato capital on Thursday showed a random sampling of residents are divided when it comes to their preferred ketchup.

Though most of the two dozen participants said they now stock their fridges with bottles of French's — made with homegrown Leamington tomatoes — many selected ketchup from President's Choice and Heinz as their favourite flavour.

CBC News went to the Leamington, Ont. to test residents and their taste buds when it comes to ketchup.

Final results of the CBC News taste challenge, held at the Leamington Kinsmen Recreation Complex, showed about 40 per cent of participants opted for Heinz, while the rest were divided between French's and PC products.

Mayor John Paterson, who admittedly has a stockpile of Heinz ketchup at home, dropped by to take the challenge. He and his wife bought six large Heinz bottles when the company shuttered its factory in 2014, putting more than 700 employees out of work.

"I grew up beside the plant, so that's all we've had is Heinz ketchup all our lives," Paterson said.

New loyalties

But the mayor's allegiance may be shifting. Forced to choose which condiment he liked better out of the three options, Paterson chose French's.

"Sorry, Heinz," he said with a robust laugh.

Many residents have switched allegiances from Heinz, particularly after the latest ketchup battle  that saw grocery giant Loblaws drop French's ketchup from its stores. Loblaws owns 2,000 stores in Canada.

But public outcry and sweeping Canadian patriotism among ketchup consumers quickly forced the grocery giant to reverse its decision.

Aiming to give a highly objective assessment of the three ketchups, professional wine judge Gary Koestler put his skillful palate to the test.

He described French's as being a "little sweet" with a "nice tomato flavour," but in the end, he preferred President's Choice, calling it "more complex" than the other two options.

Leamington, Ont. has long been the self-proclaimed tomato capital of Canada. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

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